Meet the leading historian of Women's Cricket!
Raf Nicholson is a leading historian of women’s cricket; currently researching a PhD in the subject. Raf writes extensively about her interest and you can read it at her blog Women in Cricket .
She talks about her work with Mithila Mehta.
1. What is it about women’s cricket that interests you so keenly, encouraging you to study it further?
I've loved cricket ever since I was a little girl growing up with a cricket-obsessed dad. I love all the things about women's cricket that I love about men's cricket – that there is always something going on, and a hundred different things, tactically, to think about every ball. But in some ways I prefer women's cricket, because it's not all about whacking the ball as hard as possible – much more skill involved!
In terms of studying the sport, when I started researching it (which was about five years ago now!) I quickly found out that there are some great stories to be told. Female cricketers are often far more interesting than male cricketers because they have actually done things outside cricket! As they have generally not been paid, they have often had to juggle cricket with jobs and, for example, with being mothers. Someone like Rachael Heyhoe-Flint (who was England captain in the 1970s) had a baby and then went back to playing within two months of giving birth! So it's interesting to think about how they made cricket work around the other things in their lives.
2. Could you share a little bit of what your research entails/ covers, as the history of women’s cricket is a pretty vast subject?
Good question – yes it is a vast subject! At the moment I'm mainly focusing on the situation in England, and looking at how it's developed since women's cricket first became properly organised here in the 1920s. Why was the UK Women's Cricket Association (the governing body of the sport, which was formed in 1926) set up in the first place, and what rules did they have about how women should play? How has the sport changed from the time when women played wearing skirts, spent years raising money to go on international cricket tours, and when all the newspapers did was poke fun at women and say they shouldn't be bothering to play at all? In some cases not very much! But in other cases the changes – especially since the ECB took over running women's cricket in 1998 – have been huge.
3. How do you feel about being among the first (or the first) to be delving into this topic academically?
It's really exciting to be looking at a topic which no one else has researched because it means I'm finding out new things all the time. Most of my sources are boxes of old papers which people have kept for years in their houses or in sheds, and I've found some amazing things out there – including photographs and papers relating to one women's cricket club (the Redoubtables) which has been around since 1921!
One of the reasons why I'm studying this topic is that I think it's really interesting and that other cricket fans will agree with me. So I'm hoping that I can make the history of the sport more widely known and that in a few years’ time you'll be reading a book on the subject written by me!
4. Your blog tackles several stereotypes associated with women’s cricket headfirst. Have you seen these stereotypes sort of withering away with the years/ growing awareness? Or is there still much ground to be covered?
I think there used to be a stereotype surrounding the type of woman who would play cricket: that she was a bit of a tomboy who wasn't really very feminine. Hopefully as the game gets more coverage in the media, and as female cricketers become better known, it's becoming clear that any type of girl/woman can take up cricket. Clearly having visible role models out there will make those stereotypes disappear even further, because I do think that perception still exists in some places – that's one reason why we need to make sure that we keep pushing for more media coverage of women's cricket.
5. A message for Team RCB?
Good luck and I hope you all enjoy the rest of the tournament!